Copyright © The A.A. Grapevine, Inc., July 1948
Throughout the world AAs are twelfth-stepping with thousands of new prospects a month. Between one and two thousand of these sick on our first presentation; past experience shows that most of the remainder will come back to us later on. Almost entirely unorganized and completely non professional, this mighty spiritual current is now flowing from alcoholics who are well to those who are sick. One alcoholic talking to another; that’s all.
Could this vast and vital face-to-face effort ever be professionalized or even organized? Most emphatically, it could not. The few efforts to professionalized straight twelfth Step work have always failed quickly. Today, no AA will tolerate the idea of paid “AA therapists” or “organizers.” Nor does any AA like to be told just how he must handle that new prospect of his. No, this great life-giving stream can never be dammed up by paid do-gooders or professionals. Alcoholics Anonymous is never going to cut its own lifelines. To a man, we are sure of that.
But what about those who serve us full time in other capacities — are cooks, caretakers, and paid intergroup secretaries “AA professionals”?
Because our thinking about these people is still unclear, we often feel and act as though they were such. The impression of professionalism subtly attaches to them, so we frequently hear they are “making money out of AA” or that they are “professionalizing” AA. Seemingly, if they do take our AA dollars they don’t quite belong with us AAs anymore. We sometimes go further; we underpay them on the theory they ought to be glad to “cook” for AA cheap.
Now isn’t this carrying our fears of professionalism rather far? If these fears ever got too strong, none but a saint or an incompetent could work for Alcoholics Anonymous. Our supply of saints being quite small, we would certainly wind up with less competent workers than we need.
We are beginning to see that our few paid workers are performing only those service tasks that our volunteers cannot consistently handle. Primarily these folks are not doing Twelfth Step work. They are just making more and better Twelfth Step work possible. Secretaries at their desks are valuable points of contact, information, and public relations. That is what they are paid for, and nothing else. They help carry the good news of AA to the outside world and bring our prospects face to face with us. That’s not “AA therapy”; it’s just a lot of very necessary but often thankless work.
So, where needed, let’s revise our attitude toward those who labor at our special services. Let us treat them as AA associated, and not as hired help; let’s recompense them fairly and, above all, let’s absolve them from the label of professionalism.
Let us also distinguish clearly between “organizing the AA movement” and setting up, in a reasonably businesslike manner, its few essential services of contact and propagation. Once we do that, all will be well. The million or so fellow alcoholics who are still sick will then continue to get the break we sixty thousand AAs have already had.
Let’s give our “service desks” the hand they so well deserve.